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Calvin Sellers

How Office Culture Has Changed in the Last Decade

By: Calvin Sellers | October 2, 2013 | 
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Office Culture

By Calvin Sellers

As technology has progressed, both office culture and communication has changed dramatically.

With the constant ability to in touch with coworkers, it becomes more difficult to unplug and return to daily life.

As employees of all different ages and from all different backgrounds come together within an office setting, there are unique challenges that must be addressed in order to successfully maintain a smooth flow.

Adapting to Different Generations

One distinct change in the culture of the office is the influx of Generation Y employees into the workforce.Those born between 1946 and 1964 are Baby Boomers, and their generation is known for a strong work ethic, professional behavior, commitment to the job, and the ability to work up to higher positions. These employees value security and seniority, and plan for the future.

Those in the Gen Y generation were born between 1977 and 2002, and these individuals have high energy levels, value education over experience, dress and act more casually, and place more value on relationships and feedback from others. They desire control and independence in their jobs, and focus on balancing work and personal life.

Mobile Devices and Constant Access

Technology has drastically changed the feel of many offices around the world. Even just a few years ago, cell phones were few and far between. We now see a shift, where people of all ages have mobile devices, including smartphones and tablet computers, keeping us connected to one another at all times.

There are few excuses as to why you can abandon your cell phone, so it’s more difficult to disconnect and focus on other aspects of life.

Budget Cuts

As the economy has struggled during the past few years, many companies had to cut back in certain areas to save money and stay positive. One of the ways  some have chosen to cut spending is in corporate-provided devices.

This policy, also referred to as “Bring Your Own Device,” has become more popular as businesses realize they don’t have to spend as much money on each employee’s plan. Instead, they simply repay the employee for a portion of the bill, or for the business-related usage of the device.

As employees are able to use their own devices, security is often an issue. Many companies require password protection and encryption apps to help reduce risks. If employees struggle to link the information between their smartphones, laptops, tablets, and other devices, they can use enterprise mobility management software, which makes it easier to sync all forms of technology.

Outsourcing Jobs

Another big change within office settings is the addition of outsourcing. It is often less expensive, since employees across the globe will typically work for lower pay. In fact, businesses report a 30-70 percent decrease in spending on employee salaries when utilizing this practice.

Technology continues to make outsourcing a viable solution because you have a plethora of options to stay connected with your remote workers.  Many companies are implementing company Skype or Google Hangout strategies.

Others that use commercial enterprise softwares, such as Blackberry, are even seeing technology innovations that are making their offices more flexible. The evolving mobile market has caused Blackberry to shift significant focus to maximizing BBM for Android usage. This helps companies that were traditionally tied to one vendor bring on employees that use their own devices.

Traditional Office Culture Abandonment 

With so many changes, some businesses have decided to abandon the traditional office setting. A combination of expensive rent costs and building maintenance fees along with a decreased need for face-to-face contact result in cutbacks by allowing employees to work from home. Benefits of this style of working include flexible working hours, elimination of commuting, and a better balance between career and home life.

Studies show that two-thirds of the employees interviewed felt a traditional office culture stifled creativity, and feels negative. Many of those Generation Y-ers are very interested in a more flexible working option, and the pressures from these employees are affecting the office environment.

There are many companies that conduct business solely online, so for many of these, an office has become obsolete.

It’s hard to predict what the future holds, but as we can look at the many changes in the past 10 years, the future definitely looks exciting.

About Calvin Sellers


Calvin Sellers is an avid mobile tech and social media writer from Tampa, FL. Follow him on Twitter @CalvinTheScribe.

16 comments
dbvickery
dbvickery

We downsized our office space, since so many of our consultants work onsite, but we still probably have too much space. Next time, we go with lesser space and focus on "hoteling".

We did change one half of the space to be completely open. Our developers actually gravitated to the more open, enticing-for-collaboration space vs the cubicles.

Of course, I've telecommuted since 1998, and I love it. However, that requires a certain discipline that not every employee will have. Regarding offshore workforces, I think there was a kneejerk reaction - like social media usage - along the lines of "everybody else is doing it and saving money, so we should to". There wasn't enough thought and guidelines/constraints/best practices/expectations established upfront, so many of those efforts failed. Candidly, that worked to our advantage since we do NOT sell an offshore component...just talent that can do the work onsite or fully remote yet accessible without huge timezone changes or potential communication/cultural hurdles.

rdopping
rdopping

Calvin, we should talk. I am very interested in what you are saying and would love to hear a little more about your experiences. BTW, you left out Gen X. Are they the lost generation?I plan office space for a living. I have to say that while demographics playa significant role in current planning strategies there are some significant challenges with implementations.ting flex work, BYOD and the other experimental strategies for AWS which make change management a significant struggle in the evolution of office environments.Your points are the reality of today's knowledge workforce so much so that companies such as GSK

LauraPetrolino
LauraPetrolino

Really interesting article Calvin. Over the last several months I've been working in an 'old school' office (after years of working from home.) I've learned alot through doing so and one of the most interesting things I've found you definitely touch upon here; the business landscape is changing....but many office environment have not yet accepted or acknowledged those changes and adapted to fit. 

This is especially true (as you point out) in an office full of Gen Y-ers, who have a tendency to have different priorities, motivations and communication styles. Old school office cultures just often aren't able to maximize these employees (which also leaves them disengaged....which perhaps might have something to do with the tendency of Gen Y-ers to job hop at frequent intervals).

The transition to 'office 2.0' is going to be a slow and painful one for many orgs and as @biggreenpen  points out puts an emphasis on strong, innovative leadership and agile  and open management styles to be able to look at the organization's goals and develop an 'office' environment that maximizes them. 

PS. Calvin...Tampa??? I just moved from there a few months ago (in Jax now). Always nice to meet a Tampon :) We should talk, and connect up the next time I roam down that way! 


biggreenpen
biggreenpen

I think these changes place a bigger demand on the leadership at organizations to cultivate a culture of "togetherness" (even when such togetherness is not literal).  I read one time a study that said the sheer act of requiring people to introduce themselves to one another before performing surgery led to a higher surgical success rate. Obviously surgery teams have to be physically together, but the same principle can apply to teams who are not in the same room; it matters to know a little bit about each person in order to "be" a functional team. Interesting points. 

rdopping
rdopping

Darn smart phone. Mobile sucks at times.

What I was saying is global giants like GSK are leveraging these ideas to change how space is designed working within the constraints of issues like reduced real estate, social issues like management face time which is a huge issue and flexibility.

The world is slow to change but the factors you mentioned are definitely being put to the test by many of our clients. We find the smaller they are the less likely they are open to spending the time to prove these theories. Risk is a big factor in making radical shifts to established paradigms.

That'a why it's so awesome being an interior designer in today's world.

Great post!

CalvinTheScribe
CalvinTheScribe

@LauraPetrolino Thanks for the comments!  I have also just returned to the office environment after years working from a home office, but fortunately I work in a modern office environment now.  It's really helped me to clearly see the differences-some are great, some are not-so-great.  

Definitely should connect.  I rarely come to Jax, but if you come to Tampa, just hit me up!

LauraPetrolino
LauraPetrolino

@biggreenpen Whoa....I just wrote a blog about a month ago on this exact topic (and haven't put it up yet...now I'm going to have to go ahead and actually publish the blogs I write, geez what a concept). The study I use in the blog is one in which radiologists that were able to see an actual picture of the  person whose x-ray or scan they were evaluating had a higher rate of catching 'incidentals' (things not necessarily related to original diagnosis). 

The power of that human, human connection is extremely strong, but there are many ways to cultivate that virtually, the problem is as we go through this transition many forget about that need and therefore do nothing to speak to it in the new virtual workplaces. The businesses that do, thrive. Those that don't, struggle. 

CalvinTheScribe
CalvinTheScribe

@rdopping Thanks for the comments!  I also think the type of employees you have can affect the need for these changes.  For example, creatives need creative spaces that allow freedom of movement to encourage ideas.  Do you really think there are significant dollars to save on real estate with office space redesign?


davidpassingparade
davidpassingparade

@CalvinTheScribe @rdopping Susan Cain's "Quiet" says a lot of creatives are introverts, meaning they wilt under a grab-ass open floor plan. Of course, such a plan saves money in the short run, and extroverts love it.

belllindsay
belllindsay

@CalvinTheScribe @rdopping Calvin, email me if you would like to connect via email with Ralph (great guy btw, and 100% harmless LOL!!) - I can connect the two of you. Best, LB 

CalvinTheScribe
CalvinTheScribe

@biggreenpen @LauraPetrolino Funny thing- Currently a huge wall in my office has a huge world map drawn on it, and everyone has marked their hometown.  Last week we did everyone's fave football team.  Cultivating community is definitely a key to having a more relaxed culture.  I think it leads to the type of accountability you mentioned with the surgeons, @biggreenpen

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